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My sisters, the cougars

By THERESE JAMORA-GARCEAU, The Philippine STAR Published Feb 11, 2023 5:00 am

When it comes to romantic relationships between older women and younger men, the Year of the Cougar was so 2009. Yep, that’s about the time when cougars and their cubs hogged the headlines, with Demi Moore, then 40, and Ashton Kutcher, then 25, as their poster girl and boy.

A TV series called Cougar Town was made. Cougar-cub speed dating and even cruises became a thing, with the younger men being the more interested parties, eager to hook up with women who were more experienced (both sexually and in life), tended to overlook small flaws, and were supposedly “so grateful,” according to Ben Franklin in his “Old Mistresses Apologue” (written all the way back in 1745!).

What did the older women get out of it? Partners who injected a new vitality into their lives, broadened their horizons, and had the sexual stamina to keep up with a cougar in her prime. Some women who had already been married with kids simply wanted a noncommittal “boy toy” to have fun with.

In 2023, the Year of the Rabbit, have cougar-cub relationships withstood the test of time? I went to two sources close to home—my sisters!— to find out.

Jenny Jamora and Brian Sy

My sister Jenny—an actor, teacher, stage director and theater producer who received the Gawad Buhay award for Outstanding Stage Direction for Every Brilliant Thing (2019, The Sandbox Collective) and is a founding member of Red Turnip Theater—has been with her boyfriend Brian for over six years now. 

Brian is an actor for theater, film and TV who won the Gawad Buhay for Best Male Featured Performance for his portrayal of Aufidius in Tanghalang Pilipino’s stage rendition of Shakespeare’s Coriolanus. (You can currently catch him on Netflix in Bradley Liew’s The Tapes and on ABS-CBN in The Iron Heart.) Their age gap is 15 years.

The look of love: Actors Jenny Jamora and Brian Sy have a 15-year age gap. Photo by JACK JARILLA

How did you two meet?

JENNY: I knew of him via common theater friends. We started commenting on each other’s nerdy posts on Star Wars or Cate Blanchett’s latest projects. Then it turned into private messaging. We finally met in person at Red Turnip Theater’s This Is Our Youth. We barely exchanged words, though. Sometimes it’s easier to be braver online. Fortunately, there was an opportunity for us to work together writing an event script. We worked well together and that event turned out great! We started dating after that.

BRIAN: We had common friends in the theater scene. I had been an avid fan of Red Turnip for some time and I had tried to attend their shows as much as I could. It was during a show of This is our Youth when I had the chance to talk to her. Albeit, it was more of “small talk” since I get flustered whenever someone whom I admire both artistically and on a personal level talks to me. Yet, that started it. A mutual admiration (I would like to think), then I messaged her about random Star Wars-related stuff, then she had to direct the Gawad Buhay Awards, which she asked for my help. Then we started dating. The rest is history.

What was your first impression of him/her?

J: He was the whole package: artistic, attractive, a gentleman, a great listener.

B: Talented, kind, compassionate, pure and beautiful energy.

What made you fall in love with him/her?

J: His love for life: that’s why we could talk for hours on end just appreciating a film, a place, a person we admire, or a certain moment in time, with total honesty. 

B: I think, for what it’s worth, it’s really her kindness. She has a pure heart. More than anything, that’s what I latched onto and admired about her.

We ask each other what we need and if we’re okay. Lastly, we’re from different cultures so we keep learning from each other.

How/when did you find out his/her age?

J: We clarified our ages around seven or eight hours into our first date. The date went on for about four more hours without any awkwardness. That was a good sign.

B: It was during our first date. Which lasted about 13 hours, I think? Hahaha! Maybe I’m exaggerating but we saw a movie at around 5 p.m. and then went out to dinner, then to a bar.

Brian and Jenny in the early days of their relationship

How did you feel about the age gap?

J: I got insecure about it the first few months into the relationship since I’m very good at gaslighting myself! I didn’t have age issues, I had self-worth issues that I thought had something to do with the age gap. A lot of work went into processing that. Now the age issues have more to do with the physica—like, “I’m gonna need a colonoscopy soon.” 

B: I knew she was older but not the specific age. I wanted to get that part of my curiosity out of the way, so she showed me her driver’s license and that was that. I was like, “Okay. Cool.” Didn’t faze me in any way whatsoever. It was just fact. Didn’t change the way the day was going at all. That’s when I knew that the age gap didn’t bother me at all.

Prior to that, did you ever think youd be okay dating an older woman/younger man? Why or why not?

J: Maybe dating someone three or four years younger but not 15 years! But turns out, it’s really about growing together. You start off with common beliefs and values but the circumstances can be very different, e.g., being 16 years in the business versus his three years. Then, you just have to let the other one into your life so you can experience things together. Then the circumstances begin to equalize. 

B: Yeah. It was never an issue for me to begin with. I had gone on dates with other women of different age gaps before I met Jenny (whether younger or older than me). It was never about that. It was more of the connection. If it was working, who cares about the age gap?

What are the challenges in dating someone older/younger? How do you resolve those challenges?

J: Challenge: Worrying about what other people think or say about your age gap or what you assume they think or say.

Resolution: Realize that whether they’re talking about you or not, your relationship is between you and your partner. And if you do encounter objections, take them on together. Don’t go it alone.

Challenge: Getting over preconceived notions about generations (e.g., Gen X versus Millennials).

Resolution: Set aside labels. Ask rather than assume. See yourselves as two adults going through the up-and-down journey that is life.

Challenge: Equating age with experience.

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A post shared by Jenny Jamora (@j2jamora)

Resolution: Though I’ve lived on this Earth 15 more years than Brian, I had to ask myself “What do I really know?” I realized that 15 more years of living was also 15 more years of developing bad habits and unhelpful patterns of thinking. So I needed to unlearn a lot and learn from Brian, and now we learn new things together. Also, remember that wisdom is not age-dependent. For Brian and I, each of us has gained wisdom in various aspects of life, so I allow myself to listen to his wisdom many a time, and he listens to me, too.

B: I would like to think that we go through the same challenges as any other relationship. You put two unique individuals together and something’s going to come up. In spite of them having mutual admiration for each other, there are adjustments that each has to make for the relationship to work out.

What is the secret of your lasting relationship?

J: Self-awareness and honesty. Prayers, too. 

B: Openness to communication, meaning mastering the art of listening. I mean, truly listening. Like in any form of relationship, that’s the key. And it’s a continuous process of learning and unlearning.

* * *

Marie Jamora And Jason Mclagan

My youngest sister Marie, a director, producer and musician whose award-winning films include Ang Nawawala, Flip the Record and Harana, is now a member of the Directors Guild of America, adjunct faculty of the American Film Institute, and directed episodes of American TV series like Queen Sugar (on Oprah’s network), Grease: Rise of the Pink Ladies and the Fantasy Island reboot. She met her husband, Jason McLagan, when Ang Nawawala was screened at the Slamdance film festival in the United States.

Jason is also an award-winning director, producer and animator who directed and animated the stop-motion sequences for Lego: The Build Zone, a hit web series on Lego’s official YouTube channel and Other career highlights include his short film An Elegy for Eden, Unilever Philippines’ documentary short Portraits, episodes of New York Fashion Week for Maybelline Philippines, and cinematography for Netflix’s Making a Murderer, Showtime’s The Death of Superman Lives: What Happened? and the award-winning documentary Mixed Match.

On the beach: Directors Marie Jamora and Jason McLagan—whose age gap is 10 years—with daughter Harana Photo by JACK JARILLA

Marie and Jason have been together for 10 years, founded Cinema Sala, a screening and workshop series that showcases Filipinx artists in film, got married in 2018, and now have a three-year-old daughter named Harana. Their age gap is 10 years.

How did you two meet?

We met at a film festival where both our films were in competition.

What was your first impression of him/her?

JASON: I thought she was a badass.

MARIE: I thought he was interesting and intriguing.

What made you fall in love with him/her?

M: It was in the thoughtfulness of his care packages and in the faithfulness of how he would keep in touch every single day. 

J: It was the way she made me laugh, sharing movies and texting gifs together when we were doing long distance. Every time I would get a message from her, I would smile.

How/when did you find out his/her age?

Jason and Marie soon after they became a couple

J: Months into the relationship. I assumed she was older because she made a feature, but didn’t know how much older. Age was never a thing; I never thought about age.

How did you feel about the age gap?

J: It didn’t even cross my mind. Age is a mindset and her mindset is youthful. 

M: Concerned at first, but that went away because he is an old soul. Everyone thinks we’re the same age. 

J: And I’m white, so I look it. (Laughs)

Prior to that, did you ever think you’d be okay dating an older woman/younger man? Why or why not?

J: Never even crossed my mind.

M: I'd dated younger men before. All that matters to me is their maturity level.

What are the challenges in dating someone older/younger?

J: Same challenges in dating anyone. 

M: We were ready for a serious relationship at the same time, so none, really. The only challenge is that the window for having children is smaller.

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A post shared by Marie Jamora (@marie_jamora)

How do you resolve those challenges?

M: No mind games, no passive-aggressive behavior, no secrets, just honesty.

J: We have grown together as effective communicators and can talk through everything. As long as we go to bed at night loving each other and resolving the issues of the day, we wake up and can be better tomorrow.

What is the secret of your lasting relationship?

J: We keep things fresh, have adventures, and travel. We take care of each other. 

M: Quality time together, carving out time for dates, sharing new experiences, never taking anything for granted. We ask each other what we need and if we’re okay. Lastly, we’re from different cultures so we keep learning from each other.

What are the advantages of being in such a relationship? (Older woman, younger man)

M: He has enough youthful energy to catch up with our child.

J: We balance each other out. She introduces me to things I was too young for and I introduce her to things she was too old for, so we widen each other’s interests.